Calendar snowballs student holidays

AISD change pushes back winter break leading to religious & educational disruption


Asher Hagan

Incorporating extra burnout days shouldn’t push back winter break at all, and it doesn’t make any sense that they do.

Editorial Team

Waking up on holiday morning to celebrate with her family. A sinking feeling in her stomach rumbles as she feels unbearable unrest realizing she can’t celebrate with her loved ones. 

With her Hanukkah traditions trampled on, she drags her feet to her car and begins to drive. She has four and a half hours of testing today. Her holiday has been ruined.

Because of Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) 2022-2023 calendar, winter break has been pushed back three days, starting December 22 and ending January 9 (last year it spaanned from Dec. 18 to Jan. 4). These three days interrupt the first days of Hanukkah and split finals into two different weeks. The number of days off in the first semester and the number of days/weeks off in the second nine weeks are the same.

The Dispatch believes the winter break of the 2022-2023 school year fails to provide students an equal opportunity for studying and religious expression. 

It is wholly irresponsible and ignorant for AISD to ignore the traditions students have when celebrating Hanukkah. 

This mistake makes it so people celebrating the Jewish holiday cannot celebrate the first three nights of the eight-night celebration. 

With this change, all who celebrate Hanukkah are forced to make a choice they shouldn’t have to make. School or religion? 

Students must choose whether to celebrate this sacred holiday or study for their upcoming final. 

While Hanukkah mainly takes place during the evening, every family has different traditions, and scheduling finals during the first three nights may interrupt those traditions, ruining the plans of those who travel or celebrate throughout the day with family.

However, traveling doesn’t only affect people celebrating Hanukkah; those celebrating Christmas have only two days to travel before Christmas Eve. This makes the likelihood of absences during the last three days of the semester very high, causing many students to miss finals to celebrate with their families instead.

In addition, the new calendar doesn’t only impact holiday traditions, it also splits finals into two different weeks. 

This creates an unequal opportunity and gives more time for studying and preparation for students who are given an extra weekend for studying. Students who have the same final before the weekend aren’t gifted with this same luxury.

This push-back doesn’t make sense when seeing that there aren’t more or fewer days off for winter break, nor do the extra days off for student mental health relief (called burnout days) interrupt the nine weeks. 

This change makes it so that the second nine weeks are longer than they have been, with about ten weeks instead of last year’s nine.

Winter Break has always given us a week leading up to Christmas, containing the first three days of Hanukkah within them, but this year winter break gives us a week off after New Year.

While AISD did ask for input about the 2022-2023 calendar as/after it was made, AISD didn’t adequately inform students that they could be part of their upcoming year’s decision, nor did AISD ask for input regarding winter break.

AISD shared this information as part of their December 2021 Family Newsletter. The newsletter mentioned addition of extra days off for students and staff called burnout days without mentioning in the newsletter that winter break was pushed back.

When first announced, the newsletter provided a calendar displaying that winter break wouldn’t start until December 23, 2022. 

While this was changed by just one day, no other newsletters had mentioned the impact of the new dates of winter break. AISD didn’t properly inform students about the change.

The main and only way AISD can fix this massive blunder is by shifting winter break back to what it has been every year previously: including religious holidays and keeping finals in one week.

The Dispatch believes AISD’s 2022-2023 schedule change needs to be made with the student’s interests entirely in mind and only brings confusion and issues with the upcoming winter break.

In addition to this confusion, the new calendar seems to turn a blind eye to Jewish students who wish to celebrate their holiday while ensuring that Christian students celebrate their holiday. 

Incorporating extra burnout days shouldn’t push back winter break at all, and it doesn’t make any sense that they do.